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Gators Gameday: Preview vs Georgia Tech

By Aileyahu Shanes

Follow on Twitter @a_shanes10

Let’s hope the Gators are well rested, because they have a tough test this weekend. The 5-3-1 Gators are facing the 12-5-0 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in a back-to-back-weekend series. This matchup is important for Florida’s SECHC playoff chances, as the Yellow Jackets are conference rivals. The Gators also have seven SECHC games left this season, and this weekend’s games comprise of two of them.

Georgia Tech’s season has been very impressive. On top of their 12-5-0 overall record, they hold a 5-0-0 record against SECHC opponents, giving them a good chance to secure one of the top eight spots to make the SECHC playoff. The Yellow Jackets have been dangerous, with their focal point being their dominating offensive production. Take their last two games for example. In a back-to-back matchup against Kennesaw State, Georgia Tech scored eight goals in each game, securing wins in each.

Georgia Tech’s players are putting up incredible individual stats. One player to watch is team captain Matthew Connolly. Connolly is a junior forward from Suwannee, Georgia. In just fourteen games, Connolly has put up 32 points, eighteen goals and fourteen assists. Forward Ryyan Reule is also someone to look out for. The Devils Lake, North Dakota, product has 24 points, twelve goals and twelve assists in only fifteen games. Another impressive Yellow Jacket is freshman defenseman Earl Gretzinger. The Bronxville, New York, native has 21 points in seventeen games. He was also good enough to win CHF Freshman of the Month for the month of November.

The Gators are looking to come out with two wins with some fresh faces on their roster. Forwards CJ Newlon, Brad Christman and defenseman Lewie Schacht are all making their DII debuts tonight. Newlon, a junior from Daytona Beach, recorded eight points in as many games for the DIII squad. Christman is a graduate student from Michigan, who recorded five points in eight games for DIII. Schacht is a junior from Gainesville. The Alachua County resident scored five points in only six games for DIII.

Both games will be played in Atlanta at the Atlanta Ice Forum. Puck drop for tonight’s game is at 7:30pm while tomorrow’s game will start at noon.

Player Profile: Connor Nicholson

By Aileyahu Shanes

Follow on Twitter @a_shanes10

Leadership, it is a characteristic that is needed on any team, no matter big or small. It would be impossible for the Gators to find success without it, whether on the ice or off, and team president Connor Nicholson is a key leadership piece for this team.

The junior, majoring in accounting, currently calls Sarasota home; however, Nicholson’s roots start in St. Louis, Missouri, where he started learning to skate at the age of two. “I was barely able to walk,” said the center, “and she [Nicholson’s mother] had me skating. So, that was my first exposure to it [hockey] and then… they got me on a team when I was probably four years old.” Nicholson had a lot of inspiration to get into the sport from family members who were very involved in it. Connor’s older siblings, including his older brother Brendan, who is a former Gator forward and team president, were key factors in exposing him to the game. “I had older siblings who played,” said Connor on his two older twin siblings, “so, when they were out training, my mom would just go and have me skate.” Connor also has family in the media side of hockey. His uncle is long-time St. Louis Blues play-by-play announcer John Kelly. Kelly is also the son of former sportscaster Dan Kelly, who also called games for the Blues. Unsurprisingly, Connor Nicholson is a big Blues fan. “We had season tickets every year, so I went to a ton of Blues games back then.” Nicholson said.

So far, Nicholson has put up five points, three goals and two assists in nine games. Although he doesn’t put up flashy numbers every game, it’s what he does off the ice that really makes a difference. “This year, especially with the guys we have and how much talent there is in the locker room, I think I’m most needed to do some of the smaller tasks,” said Nicholson, “maybe sometimes which go unrecognized, which could be some of the different leadership things I bring to the table. I think that might be my greatest aspect.” Leadership is something that is very important to Nicholson and is an important skill to have when being the team president. “I think that leadership is such an important characteristics that a lot of people have the opportunity to develop through sports,” said Nicholson, “and I definitely think that this is one of the qualities that you can take away from playing with a team and playing with an organization; and it can really apply to real life and anything you do, whether your just starting out in a job or whether you’re an executive. I think there’s always room for leadership and all these different leadership opportunities really will arise.”

If he had to pick a player to emulate on the ice, it would be former Detroit Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk. “Just the error free games he plays… and I think his leadership really showed through during games,” said Nicholson. “It was not just an individual effort all the time.” Although he was not on his home-town Blues, Datsyuk was also Nicholson’s favorite player growing up. “I was following the Wings as well growing up.,” said Nicholson, “I really liked all the things Datsyuk did for the team as a whole, not just himself. When you look at all these different highlight reel plays, you see all these crazy moves he makes with his hands and these crazy shots… that was awesome, and I loved that part of him, but there was a whole other part that people didn’t really see to the side of his game… how much all the different talents he has built the team around him as a whole.” This trait is comparable to Nicholson’s strengths. What he does for the team’s overall success makes a huge impact. Yes, goals and points matter a lot, but it’s what you do off the ice and the little things on the ice that can create a big impact; and Connor Nicholson embodies that so well.

Although they have done well so far, there is still a lot more of this season left to go, with a very important Savannah Hockey Classic tournament coming up in just a few weeks and a handful of road games. Although these trips are daunting, they are some of Nicholson’s best memories with the team. “I think it’s what really brings us together the most,” said Nicholson, “… we are put in these different situations where we are all together at all times and it’s just an awesome experience.” Since Nicholson is still a junior, he still has a full season and half to continue making these memories and contributing towards the team with his strong leadership ability.

Player Profile: John Hunt

By Aileyahu Shanes

Follow on Twitter @a_shanes10

While this Gator team has talent up and down the roster, there is one player that clearly stands out on the ice. His name seems to be associated with every goal, and he takes control of each game. That player is senior center John Hunt. 

​The food and resource economics major from Ft. Myers currently leads the Gators in all scoring categories. He has twelve goals, nine assists and 21 points in just nine games. His dominance really started to show in the first game of the University of Tennessee series. In the first game of the series, he came out with a hat trick and an assist, including the overtime game winner. 

Although only standing at 5’9’’, Hunt has shown a huge presence on the ice. From his speed to his playmaking ability, Hunt has a plethora of skills in his tool kit. If John Hunt had to choose his biggest strength, however, he would say his hockey IQ. “Just knowing where to be and where the puck’s coming.” said Hunt on this strength. Although his favorite player growing up was Sidney Crosby, John Hunt emulates his game after another Nova Scotia, Canada, native and former QMJHL prospect: Nathan MacKinnon. “He likes to shoot the puck,” said Hunt on MacKinnon’s playing style, “and once in a while will do something flashy. He doesn’t try to do too much. He’s always just getting pucks deep, shooting a lot and then, once in a while, he’ll have a crazy, highlight reel goal.”

​While being from the west coast of Florida, Hunt decided to play his high school hockey in Connecticut at Westminster Prep. “I had worked really hard to get to that level,” said Hunt, “because I wasn’t going to go up there if I wasn’t ready. So, I went up there, got looked at by a few schools and that [Westminster Prep] was one of them that I really liked and we kind of figured out a way that would work.” Westminster Prep is a great program with a tough training regimen. “You’re on the ice every day,” said Hunt on the program, “If you want to go before class you can go, mandatory workouts every day…. Getting structure from a program like that was really helpful.” The structure has clearly shown how helpful it has been, with it translating to Hunt’s success with the Gators currently. Over his three-year tenure with the prep school, Hunt recorded 21 points. “After high school, I went to an NCAA DIII school called Hobart, which is in upstate New York.” said Hunt. Unfortunately, Hunt’s stint with the team did not last long, as he was cut. However, Hobart is a very tough and prestigious program, and making the team is very difficult. 

​Although not being able to play Division III NCAA hockey, Hunt seems to have found a big role at the University of Florida and has made lasting memories along the way. “When we played in Savannah,” said Hunt on one such memory that stuck out to him, “…we played against Florida State and then we played Georgia Tech. That was a really fun tournament. I personally had a really good tournament, but also just beating Florida State was a really good accomplishment.” Hopefully Hunt and the Gators can have another successful Savannah Tournament and carry the team to further success this season.

Player Profile: Matthew Brkljacic

By Aileyahu Shanes

Follow on Twitter @a_shanes10

When your teammates place upon a nickname like “Bobby Orr” on you, it’s hard to live up to those expectations. As a defenseman who had 1.39 points per game over his twelve-year NHL career, one must be truly worthy to be compared to one of the best offensive defensemen of all time. However, freshman Matthew Brkljacic lives up to that mold and the nickname that was placed on him.

Brkljacic is currently a freshman majoring in business. He has a big frame, standing at five feet eleven inches and 170 pounds. Although he went to high school at Plant High in Tampa, he was originally from Windsor, Ontario, where he first fell in love with hockey. Although living in Ontario, Berkie became a Montreal Canadiens fan. “It’s got to be a Canada team growing up in Canada; and it wasn’t Toronto because that was who was closest, and my dad’s a Canadiens fan.”

Berkie is having a phenomenal season so far. In just seven games, he has recorded a total of eight points, three goals and five assists. He currently leads all defenseman on the team in points. He really started to break out during the UCF weekend. In the first game of the back-to-back he had two goals and in the second game he assisted on four goals. “I think that’s when it took charge,” said Brkljacic when asked when the “Bobby Orr” nickname started. “Connor [Nicholson] would make jokes on the bench and so would the coaches about my style of play.… I got to basically live up to the nickname now.”

Although he is named after the legendary Boston Bruins defenseman, Brkljacic emulates his game after another defenseman from a northeastern team. “P.K. Subban,” Brkljacic instantly answered when asked about the player he tries to model his game after. “He used to play on the Canadiens when I was growing up; he was my favorite player.… He’s an offensive defenseman heavily, which I see as being more productive for the team and more exhilarating to watch in general. So, when I watched him, I fell in love with his style of play and try to do it myself.” Like Subban, Brkljacic also has great puck control and skating ability. This always makes him a threat on the ice and allows him to create seamless offensive breakouts. “I’ve always been a quick player,” said Berkie, “speed has always been my number one.”

Like most players, Brkljacic got into hockey at a very young age. “I’d say about five, maybe six, I started [playing hockey], and it was growing up in Canada that played a big factor into it, just a huge sport up there. The stereotype is absolutely true. It’s something that everybody does at some point: play hockey. Through that, I grew up in a good city where there were competitive teams that I could play on, and I carried that through ever since.” He played competitively for three to four years in Windsor for the Windsor AAA Zone, formerly known as the Windsor Spitfire, a AAA program. “[AAA] is the highest you could possibly go as that age.” Said Brkljacic. However, right before high school, Matthew and his family moved to Tampa. “Obviously I wanted to continue playing hockey, but I didn’t know at the time that there was good hockey down south like this.” Said Brkljacic on his move and hockey hopes. However, Berkie was able to find competitive hockey in Florida. He joined the Plant High hockey team, where he put up 34 points in 46 games over the four-year span, and he joined the Florida Alliance, a AAA team that was part of the North American Prospects Hockey League. “It was a team that was put together and practiced on weekends on occasion,” said the defenseman on the team, “and then had games and you would train on your own.” After that, Brkljacic decided to continue his pursuit of hockey by taking a gap year and playing in the USPHL, a junior hockey program consisting of DIII college schools, for the Boston Junior Bruins. This experience helped Brkljacic transition well as a freshman. “I played with guys that were older than me during that year and got a lot from it. It was a good time. I think it made the transition that much easier… just cause it’s faster. You’re playing with some big boys out there, so it’s going to be more physical than what your typically used to…. So, playing with older guys now, it’s similar to junior hockey, in a way, from a size perspective.” Although being a younger guy in the USPHL, Berkie was still able to put up thirteen points in 41 games.

Only a few games in and Berkie is already making memories. “What’s going to stick around the most is the Embry-Riddle game,” He explained on his favorite memory so far, “Just cause, even when playing junior hockey, we never had fans to that extent, not even close. So, walking into that, I wasn’t expecting that from SEC club hockey…I got on the ice and honestly had chills.” The freshman defenseman still has a whole college career ahead of him, but even with a small sample size, it looks like Brkljacic will be a cornerstone for this Gator team for years to come.

Gators Gameday: Preview vs South Carolina

By Aileyahu Shanes

Follow on Twitter @a_shanes10

After splitting their back-to-back with Florida Atlantic University, the Gators are heading to Columbia, South Carolina, to take on the University of South Carolina Gamecocks. Coming in as the number nine ranked team in the CHF, the Gators have a lot of hype to live up to.

Overall, the UF roster has been solid. Even with Vinny Marino being out the last few games, the team was still able to find success on the ice with how deep their roster is. Of course, John Hunt is still leading the way. He has nineteen points so far in just seven games. Parker Mara and Harrison Haber have also been increasing their point totals, recording ten and nine points respectively. Matthew Brkljacic is leading Gator defensemen in points. He has three goals, five assists and eight points in just seven games.

The Gamecocks, however, are no team to mess around with either. They have a plethora of offensive talent that can be overwhelming for opponents. In their last game, they defeated UNC Charlotte in a 12-0 blowout. They have a 2-1-1 SECHC record and a 5-1-1 overall record.            

The first game will be tonight at 8:15pm while the second game will be held on Sunday, November 7th at 9:00am. Both games will be played in Columbia, South Carolina, at Plex Indoor Sports. The games can also be watched live on the Gamecocks YouTube channel (SGTV).

Gators Rank Ninth Nationally in First CHF Rankings

By Aileyahu Shanes

Follow on Twitter @a_shanes10

This season just keeps on getting better and better for the Florida Gators. This Wednesday, the CHF released their national and regional rankings for the league’s collegiate teams. Rankings are done by MYHockeyRankings.com. There are two main criteria in the ranking system: average goal differential and strength of schedule.

Nationally, the Gators ranked ninth out of all CHF affiliated teams. These teams come from every CHF conference in every region. The regions include the Mid-Atlantic, East, North, and Southeast. The Gators 5-2 record gave them a 96.94 rating from the ranking system, which allowed them to secure the number nine spot.

The national rankings start at number one with Binghamton University. They have a 6-1-0 record and received a 99.01 rating. At second came Farmingdale State College. They are also 6-1-0 but came just shy of the first-place finishers with a 99.00 rating. Babson College came in third, Quinnipiac University placed fourth, Fairfield University placed fifth, University of Delaware came in sixth, University of Tampa came in seventh and the University of Georgia secured the eighth spot. Just under the Gators, at tenth place, is FAU, which UF split a back-to-back with just two weeks ago.

In addition to their number nine raking nationally, the Gators also ranked third in the CHF’s Southeast region. This region includes three conferences: the Atlantic Coast Collegiate Hockey League (ACCHL), the Southern Collegiate Hockey Conference (SCHC), and the SECHC. Just ahead of Florida are the University of Tampa and the University of Georgia, which ranked first and second respectively. FAU ranked fourth, Auburn University ranked fifth, ERAU ranked sixth, the University of Mississippi ranked seventh, the University of Tennessee ranked eighth, USF ranked ninth and Georgia Institute of Technology came in tenth.            

This CHF ranking just comes to show how far the Gators have come and how respected of a team they are. It’s only uphill from here, but this team is on the right path to success.

Gators Split Weekend Series With FAU

By Aileyahu Shanes

Follow on Twitter @a_shanes10

The Gators knew this weekend’s matchups were going to be their biggest tests of the season so far. The FAU Owls are known for their dominant success throughout the past couple of seasons. Although the Gators dropped the first game of the series, they bounced back in Game Two to show that they are still a team to compete with. Here is a breakdown of the two games.

Friday night’s game started out with FAU asserting its dominance right off the bat. Their offense dominated the first period scoring five goals. The first goal came from freshman forward Nick Solarino with an assist by David Israel. After that, Israel scored to bring the Owls’ lead to two. Junior Matias Weir then cashed in a goal from Clayton Cleveland and Myles Davidson to make it a 3-0 game. Sophomore freshman Michael Lesh put his name on the score sheet after that to make it a 4-0 game. David Israel recorded his second assist, and third point, of the game on that goal. To end off the period, junior Jake Friedman ripped one home to bring FAUs lead to five.

The Owls started out the second with the ice tipped their way again. Early in the period, junior Myles Davidson cashed one in with assists from Jake Friedman and Connor Doherty. The Gators fought back at the back end of the period, however. Andy Buchannan put UF on the board with his first goal of the season. Connor Nicholson than cashed in his second of the season off an assist from Parker Mara. By the end of the middle frame, the Owls led 6-2.

From then on, however, the Owls controlled the rest of the game. Jack Friedman scored the first and second goals of the third period to complete his hat trick. Nick Solarino then capped off the night with his second goal of the game. The final score was 9-2 FAU where the next game would be played the next day at 1:45pm.

It seemed in Game Two, however, the Gators finally cracked the code against the Owls. The first period did not show it, with FAU’s Jake Friedman recording his fourth goal of the weekend, but the Gators completely dominated the rest of the game.

From the second period and on it was all UF. Andrew Kuczynski put the Gators on the score board to tie up the game at one with his second goal of the season. Later in the period, who else but John Hunt would give the Gators the go-ahead goal with an assist by Parker Mara, who would have an amazing weekend overall. The score was now 2-1 UF at the end of the second and the Gators had a lot of momentum going into the last frame.

Florida used that momentum to score four more goals in the third. Harrison Haber started out the third period scoring with his fourth goal of the season with assists from Aidan Muruve and John Hunt. Parker Mara then recorded his third goal of the season to make it a 4-1 game. Assists came from John Coltellino and Hunt. After that, Connor Nicholson scored his second goal of the series to bring the Gators’ lead to four. Hunt recorded his third assist on the goal. To put the cherry on top, John Hunt chipped in his second goal, and fifth point, of the game to bring the score to 6-1.

The Gators may not have started off the weekend the way they wanted, but they made up for it with a dominant win the next day. This just shows how well this team can bounce back and stay toe-to-toe with their opponents.

The next Division Two game for the Gators will be against the University of South Carolina Gamecocks. It will be another weekend two game series on November 5th and 7th.

Gators Gameday Against FAU

By Aileyahu Shanes

Follow on Twitter @a_shanes10

After a long break, the Gators are finally ready to hit the ice again this weekend. The team has been red hot so far. They currently hold a 1-0-1 SECHC record and a 4-0-1 overall record. The club is coming off two strong performances against the UCF Knights, taking the first game 7-3 and the second one 5-3.

Although forward Vinny Marino is still out with injury, the Gators have a plethora of options at the helm. John Hunt has been spectacular for the Gators. The team’s leading scorer currently has fourteen points in just five games. Defenseman Matthew Brkljacic has also impressed as well. Nicknamed Bobby Orr for his amazing offensive abilities, he has recorded seven points in just five games. The matchups against UCF have also strengthened the confidence in the team’s goaltending, as freshman Tyler Uhr had a bounce-back performance in game two of the back-to-back.

However, this matchup sees the Gators pitted up against one of their toughest opponents yet: the FAU Owls. The SECHC rivals are off to a hot start. They currently hold a 4-0 SECHC record and are coming off a dominant performance against Lynn University, where they came away with a 10-2 victory. Some notable players to look out for from that performance are forwards Griffen Bono and Nick McInchale. Both sophomores had dominant performances and recorded two goals each.

Both games will be played down in Coral Springs at the Florida Panthers Ice Den. The first game will be tonight starting at 8:45pm and the second game will be on Saturday with a 1:45pm puck drop. Saturday’s game will be a special one as it is Pink the Rink night. This is a special breast cancer awareness night where the Owls will hold a special charity raffle. The proceeds will go to the Florida Breast Cancer Foundation.

Both games will surely be a thriller. They will set the tone to see who the true rulers of Florida are and will be huge in shaping up the SECHC standings.

Players Throughout Gator Hockey History

By Aileyahu Shanes

Follow on Twitter @a_shanes10

The Florida Gators Hockey Club has come a long way since its establishment in 1996. There were a lot of ups and downs, but the program is stronger than it has ever been before. Who would have thought that there would be two teams and a talented roster that is in consideration to win the SECHC tournament? This team is full of memorable moments, games and especially tournaments, but what made this team special were the players. Here is a look at five alumni and some of their thoughts on their tenure with the team.

Drew Hill

Let’s start back all the way to 2001. Drew Hill was a former goaltender for the Gators. He played from 2001 until 2005, and he served various officer positions during that tenure. “Most people weren’t aware there was a team.” Explained Hill when discussing the common student’s reaction to learning about the ice hockey club, “We tried to do lots of events to get the word out, but it’s so hard to get people to watch a game when you have to drive an hour and a half.”

All players, especially goaltenders, make special memories when on hockey teams. “Going to Nationals was pretty cool,” Hill said about a memory that stuck out to him, “it’s not something you get to do every year. That was a unique experience, we were really good that year and that was as a freshman.”

Even after his playing career he still held big roles for the program. In 2006, Hill served as the assistant coach for the club, and from 2007 to 2008 he was the Gator’s head coach.

Craig Mauro

Craig Mauro was also a player that was part of the early stages of the Gator ice hockey program. “So, I was close with one of the coaches at the time,” Mauro said when discussing how he heard about the program, “I was close with his son. I knew they had a team but didn’t really know what it was all about.” Even with that little knowledge of the program coming in, he still played big roles for the team. The forward played from 2002 until 2007. During that time, he made the All-Tournament Team for the 2005 Savannah Hockey Classic and served as the Gator’s captain for the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons.

He did not stop his commitment for the team there. Mauro served as the assistant coach for the 2007-08 season under Drew Hill. Even now he is still involved with the team. He currently runs the setup of the Gator hockey team alumni games. “Its pride in taking part in something I was a part of for six years of my life,” Mauro explained when discussing the meaning behind still staying involved with the program, “It’s a big pride thing for me and its great to see that the team is still going strong, stronger than it has ever been before. Never in a million years did we think there would be two hockey teams playing … It’s also a force to help connect with kids that you’d play with almost every weekend for four to five years.”

Although it has been a while since an alumni game was run, due to the pandemic, Mauro hopes to continue the event starting in 2022.

Jake Lewis

We now look back at yet another goaltender: Jake Lewis. A goaltender is a tough position to play, but the Buffalo native had a very good reason for his acquired position, “I’m from Buffalo, New York, and at the time Dominic Hasek was the best goaltender in the world. Pretty much every hockey player [in Buffalo] born in 1990-91 wanted to be a goalie.”

Lewis played until the 2014 season and has gone to many tournaments over his tenure. “There were countless memories. Being on the road with the team, the bus trips, those things were just unforgettable.” This is something every athlete can relate to. Having that quality time with your teammates off campus is something that you can never forget.

Brendan Nicholson

If this name sounds familiar to you that’s because Brendan is the older brother of, current team president, Connor Nicholson. “Its just great to see that he wants to be involved in taking responsibility for the team,” Nicholson stated when asked about his thoughts on his brother’s big leadership role on the team, “because having a role on the team, especially a president role, puts so much work on your shoulders.”

Nicholson played from 2013 until 2018 and was very successful during that tenure. In 89 total college games he recorded 89 points. “Obviously I got to wear I was … because of the coaches I had throughout the years.” Nicholson explained, “I could attribute the success I had on the ice [because] I had pretty good line mates … I got to play with some good hockey players then.” And it’s true. During the 2017-18 season, Nicholson played with guys like Daniel Clifford and Zane Katz. The three combined for 140 points that season in just 20 games.

Daniel Clifford

As mentioned before, Daniel Clifford was a great hockey player. The Bradenton native played from 2015 to 2019 and accumulated 133 points over that span; that’s almost two points per game. His success brought the team to the SECHC tournament. When asked about his favorite memory, he said, “SEC beating Georgia. We won the first game in OT versus Ole Miss, then we got outshot [about] 70 to 35 and beat Georgia, who was one of the top teams in the South.”

Clifford’s success and leadership skills were worthy enough for the coaches to name him the captain for his last few seasons. This label gave him a lot of responsibilities, but it ultimately allowed Clifford to be a leader, not just on the ice, but career-wise as well. “I would say it helped a lot,” Clifford explained when asked how being the captain helped him in his current career, “In a college setting it feels like your always in that [leadership] role; making sure people get their stuff done off the ice, making sure everyone is held accountable … We had responsibilities and everyone takes it a bit differently … you learn of how to work and see how people get that common goal … In projects now, not everyone likes to work the same style … just learning that people learn different, react different.”

They may not be playing anymore, but each player still has a connection to this Gator team that will never go away. Being on the team has allowed each player to create lasting memories and strong bonds between teammates. And no matter whether they are still involved or not, they will always have something to take away from that experience that they will be connected to forever.

The Gators D3 Team Takes Their Second Win of the Season

By Aileyahu Shanes

Follow on Twitter @a_shanes10

The Gators D3 squad played their second game of the season yesterday; again, playing their foes from Daytona Beach, the Embry-Riddle Eagles. UF dominated in their last performance, coming out with a 5-1 victory, but this early afternoon matchup against ERAU proved to be a bit more challenging.

The Gators started out strong in the first period. The scoring with a goal by Daytona product CJ Newlon. The tally was his first goal and point of the season. But ERAU stayed toe and toe with the Gators, with Ian Betkis tying up the game at one shortly after. The period stayed tied for most of the first frame, but, with just over a minute left, Lewie Schaht ripped home his first goal of the season to bring back Florida’s lead. By the end of the period, Ben Acker, who originally backed up Tyler Uhr on the D2 team, stopped ten of the eleven Eagle shots.

The second period was a weaker one for the Gators. UF committed an abundance of penalties that lead to a variety of opportunities for Embry-Riddle. They took advantage early on with a quick power play goal by Christopher Sirrell. At this point, coach Michael Kelly decided to remove Acker from the game and place in Sophie Felton, who finished off Friday nights D2 game against UCF. Felton seemed to have some trouble getting into the flow of the game early on; with Sirrell recording his second goal of the game shortly after the goaltending swap. This gave the Eagles their first lead of the game. However, freshman Isaac Blank, who played against the UCF Knights just the night prior, tied up the game at three shortly after. A few plays after that, Blank came up big again and regained UF’s lead with his second goal of the game. But ERAU ended off the period hot. Jonathan Gardner tied up the game shortly after Blank’s second tally and Sirell finished off his hat trick a few minutes before the middle frame ended.

The Gators faced a test entering the final period, but they showed to pass in flying colors. Blank recorded the first goal of the period and finished off his hat trick. Joe Jannelli quickly regained the Eagles’ lead, however, with the score now reading 6-5. The Gators had to fight hard from this point, but the senior from Miami, Jeffery Fernandez, tipped the puck into the back of the net one-handed to tie up the game at six. The rest of the period was a nail-biter. Embry-Riddle fought hard to regain the lead and end the game in regulation; but Sophie Felton stole the show. Chance after chance came for ERAU but Felton, although only 5’3’’, stood extremely tall in her crease. Without her, the game would never have gone into overtime.

After a short intermission, the extra frame started off with instant energy from both teams. But after a giveaway from Embry-Riddle, Isaac Blank converted on a breakaway opportunity and won the game for the Gators on his fourth goal of the game.            

The D3 squad is now 2-0. They are continuously showing their promise and many of their players are on the cusp of making the D2 team. Just like the upper division squad, the D3 Gators will be on break for a few weeks. Their next game will be a Halloween showdown against the Florida Tech Panthers.